Using Keystone Habits to Create Success
Written by Michele Vieux
You’ve likely heard this before. “They” say that the most successful people create mini-successes for themselves early in the day – making the bed and flossing are the two that are frequently mentioned. Do those every day and you’ve already had two successes to get you rolling!
But at the end of the day, who really looks back at what they accomplished and says, “I made my bed this morning!” I know I never have, even though I complete that act every morning. I will agree that making the bed does have its benefits – it encourages me to keep the rest of my room clean (I’m a known “non-clothes folder”), for one. And it probably does lead to other good habits but I’m just not able to actually see those.
Actions like this are called “keystone habits”, habits that set off a chain reaction that extends to all aspects of a person’s life. Some habits, in other words, matter more than others and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything because other habits follow suit. (Duhigg)
Though keystone habits may exist in a myriad of forms and may be different for different people, certain habits tend to act as keystone habits across the board. Exercising is certainly one of these (Duhigg). And eating as a family, and doing things like making your bed every morning (Duhigg) have also been shown to be highly correlated with other good habits.
But for me – and even though I do it every day – making the bed is not meaningful enough of a habit to look back upon and celebrate. So I’ve chosen three, keystone habits of my own and I do my best to complete these each and every day. I have over a 90% completion rate with these and I DO feel accomplished – and like I want to complete more positive actions in my life – at the end of the day.
Here are my keystone habits – the things I celebrate accomplishing every day. The actions that lead me to want to create more positive habits in my life:
1) Read the news upon waking each day.
I’m not super into politics but I do like to know what people around me are talking about, what’s happening in the world, and what is happening in the CrossFit realm. Taking fifteen to thirty minutes each morning to catch up while I have my coffee keeps me in the loop and helps me set some actions and intentions for the day. It also frequently gives me ideas for things to investigate and write about for my job.
2) Eat a salad for lunch every day.
No matter what else I put (or don’t put) into my body each day, at least I ate that huge salad! Besides giving me a boost of nutrients and fiber, I physically feel good after eating it. I feel nourished, satisfied and light. Doing this not only encourages me to eat other healthy meals throughout the day (for that same feeling), it also requires me to keep the fridge stocked with a variety of vegetables and fruits. And since I don’t like wasting food, they ALL get eaten throughout the week.
3) Practice something that I’m learning.
This could be anything and right now it is my Ukulele. But in the past, it has been speaking in Spanish with someone or reading about something I’m interested in (not just a novel but something substantive like ‘how to create habits’). Besides the obvious benefit of gained knowledge, I also find that it gets my creative juices flowing for other projects and gives me a short break from whatever I’m doing, especially if I’ve ‘hit a wall’ either physically or mentally. Also, I’m probably less likely to get Alzheimer’s because of this habit. Studies show that continuing to learn and engage your brain throughout life gives you “cognitive reserve” that can ward off this – and other – diseases of the mind.
To me, those are meaningful, keystone habits. I do them, I can see their benefits immediately, and I can also see how they impact my life in other areas – keeping me on the path that I want to be on.
So yes, my bed is made and my room is tidy but who really cares? I’m doing something more meaningful! What are your meaningful keystone habits? What are your favorite salad combinations? Comment below to share your ideas!
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business.February 2012.